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SPEECH: THE CONSTITUTION AND GOVERNANCE - AT A CROSSROADS AGAIN? (A BUSINESS PERSPECTIVE)

CHRISTO WIESETo state the obvious, there are diverse, sometime conflicting, business interests. The interests of manufacturers seeking protection from imports and subsidies for exports differ from the wholesaler and retailer wanting to offer consumers an expanded product range at lower prices.

The interests of a street vendor or spaza shop differ from those of a formal retailer or of a supermarket.  But in a wider sense they all share the same desire and need for a business-friendly climate created by Government.  That might be trite and obvious to everyone who is economically literate, but is often overlooked by anti-business ideologues, activists, officials and politicians.

The more important point is that there is little or no difference between broadly defined business interests and other interests. Maximally favourable business conditions generally coincide with maximally favourable government, labour and consumer interests, creating conditions that favour the rich and also favour the poor. When small business prospers, big business prospers. Like the tide that raises all boats, when there is prosperity for some, there is generally prosperity for all.

This truth is clearly articulated in the oft quoted wisdom of President Abraham Lincoln: “you cannot help the poor by destroying the rich, you cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong, you cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred. You cannot build character and courage by taking away people’s initiative and independence. You cannot help people permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves”.

Rhetoric to the effect that the rich get richer and the poor poorer, is just that, rhetoric.    That is not to deny that all over the world there is concern about existing and growing inequality.

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